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Sr Clare, the Congregational Leader, reflects on changes in health ministry

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Sister Clare Nolan, the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity, holds a unique position in the Catholic health firmament.

As the leader of her order, she is responsible for 109 Sisters, but she is also the Member Representative of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, which in turn is the owner of St Vincent’s Health Australia, Australia’s largest, not-for-profit health and aged care provider. It also includes schools in NSW, Queensland and Victoria among its continuing ministries which togethers it employs more than 20,000 staff.

In her role as Congregational Leader, it falls to Sister Clare to carry the flame for the  order which is the oldest in Australia and which for 182 years has been ministering to the marginalised, the poor, and the sick.

Now in her sixth and final year in the role, Sister Clare is reflecting on the changes that the Catholic health sector has undergone. Some things have changed immeasurably, such as co-operation across the sector.

“My heart jumps for joy to hear that all the CEOs are working together to meet the needs of the people. It’s a wonderful healing ministry that we can offer,” says Sister Clare, fresh from hosting a Zoom call for her Congregation (“we thought zoom was a noise made by a motorbike until recently.”)

It wasn’t always that way. As a young registered nurse, trained at the Mater in Brisbane. she first entered the novitiate in 1964. Her first ministry was at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. At that time, there wasn’t much conversation at her level between the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, and the Little Company of Mary.

“I’ve loved every minute of the healing ministry of Christ as Sister of Charity, but I’m delighted to see now how Australia-wide that Catholic Health Care is working together building healthier communities for the love of Christ,” says Clare.

The structure and governance of religious orders has also changed to include the laity now invited to become the stewards of those health and education facilities that were once the sole preserve of the orders.

She is part of a generation of older Sisters who realised about 25 years ago following Vatican II that they no longer had neither the inclination to be in leadership or were not suitable to be in it.  Such responsibilities inevitably took them further from the frontline of ministry.

Full story on Catholic Health Australia here.

THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
When we have so much to praise the Lord for, we must not complain.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
True affection is to rejoice in the happiness of our dear ones. Never allow a sentiment of resentment to enter into our hearts.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Pray, reflect and consult – and may the divine spirit direct all to God’s greater glory.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
May our dear Lord Jesus fill your hearts with His own love. Amen!
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
We must have patience with others as He has patience with us.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Under every difficulty try to pray fervently.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
We have much to thank Him for, even for those little drawbacks on our comforts and conveniences.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Do pray that justice may be accomplished in peace and that truth may prevail.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Go on now as steadily as you can, relying on the Divine assistance and fear not.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
What we do ought to be done well.

The Sisters of Charity acknowledge the First Peoples and traditional custodians of this land where we live. We respect, value and honour their history, culture and spirituality. We are committed to standing in solidarity and to actively working for justice, peace and harmony in this land.

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